CommunityPam's House Blend

Bush said he supports civil unions, now he's got to face the Social Security issue

There’s been a fairly big controversy over HRC position itself to support Bush on SS reform, with the caveat that the same-sex benefits issue be pushed in the package. Tactically, it’s interesting, since Bush is going to have to respond to his late-campaign statement that he supports civil unions. That state’s rights position of course dodges the issue of the 1000+ federal benefits, including social security and handling of federal taxes, that are not available to gay couples without the ability to have access to existing civil marriage.

The post-election debate on political strategy and tactics has angered a lot of folks in the gay community who are wrestling on where to go from here, there was a tart response from the NGLTF, and a lot of discussion on the blogs about HRC’s inside-the-beltway-focus-at-the-expense-of grassroots orgs that may have contributed to the woeful amendment showing. Check out the debate at AmericaBlog here and here. So read between the lines in the article below…

Gay Rights Groups in Debate Over Stance on Social Security (NYT):

Leaders of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay advocacy group, said this week that they would consider supporting Social Security revisions that included private retirement accounts if the changes brought the right of gay partners to receive survivor benefits under the program. Because federal law does not recognize gay marriages, surviving partners of gay men and lesbians, and their nonbiological children, are not entitled to Social Security benefits.

The political director of the Human Rights Campaign, Winnie Stachelberg, said on Friday that although the group did not endorse any particular approach to Social Security reform, it was willing to discuss changes that would extend equal benefits to gays and their partners. Ms. Stachelberg was elaborating on a statement on Thursday in an article in The New York Times by another official of the group.

“We have to talk about the denial of benefits in a way that people can hear,” Ms. Stachelberg said. “We have to say privatization might bring more equity to the system because it gives an individual more flexibility in designating a beneficiary. That addresses one concern of the gay and lesbian community, but it may raise others.”

Forcing Bush to define his position on civil unions will, in my 2 cents worth of opinion, make it clear for Dems to define what the civil rights struggle needs to be. But is this tacit approval of Bush’s reform plans of the SS system what HRC should be doing at all? Will the Dems actually pick up the civil rights charge this debate will inevitably generate, or will the hand-wringing wimp Dems continue their drift to be Repug-lite? Who knows.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding